Fifteen cases of swine flu have now been registered in the Czech Republic. On Thursday, health officials in Ostrava announced that a 22-year-old woman and 26-year-old man who had traveled to the Unites States had both contracted the virus. According to officials, both cases of the flu were mild and the patients were recovering at home, instead of remaining in hospital. Later on Thursday afternoon, the Czech Health Ministry announced that another three cases of swine flu had been discovered, bringing the number of cases in this country to a total of 15. According to the World Health Organisation, just under 10,000 people have now been diagnosed with the A(H1N1) virus in Europe, four of whom have died.
Inhabitants of north Moravia are again being evacuated from their homes amidst new warnings of floods. Households in the villages of Vlkovice and Stachovice are being evacuated by the local emergency services as some roads in the region are becoming unusable due to rising water levels. One week ago, devastating flash floods hit a different part of North Moravia, causing millions of crowns worth of damage and killing 13.
Czech President Václav Klaus has reacted to the German Constitutional Court’s verdict on the Lisbon treaty by saying some fundamental questions remain unanswered. On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that the reform document was compatible with German legislation, but that some alterations should be made to German law, strengthening the role of the national Parliament. In the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes on Thursday, President Václav Klaus reacted to the verdict by saying that proposed changes to German law would not be able to counteract the ‘immense shift of powers and mechanisms’ to Brussels. Last week, the vociferously eurosceptic Mr Klaus said that he would be the last politician in Europe to make a decision on the Lisbon treaty. Heads of state in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic are still to sign the document, while Ireland is due to hold another referendum on the Lisbon treaty this autumn.
Czech Interior Minister Martin Pecina reportedly offered to cancel all direct flights between Prague and Toronto in a bid to stop the Canadian authorities from reintroducing visa restrictions for Czechs. On Thursday, Lidové noviny reported that the interior minister attempted unsuccessfully to abolish direct flights between the Czech Republic and Canada, hoping that this would act as a disincentive for those seeking asylum in the North American state. According to a spokesperson for ČSA, the Czech national carrier, the airline would not yield to political pressure and cancel the route. In the last couple of days, it has been reported that Canada is seriously considering reintroducing visas for Czechs after 1077 Czech Roma applied for asylum in the first four months of this year. Ottawa reintroduced visa restrictions for Czechs in 1997 because of the number of Czech Roma seeking asylum in Canada, it lifted the restrictions in 2007.
Meanwhile, the national carrier Czech Airlines has said that it will need to scale down its fleet and cut the number of routes that it flies. In an interview with the newspaper Právo on Thursday, head of ČSA Radomír Lašák said that as part of the restructuring process ahead of the airline’s privatisation, cutbacks would be required. Two concerns are interested in the purchase of ČSA, which is due to be privatised this autumn. Air France – KLM is bidding against a consortium made up of Travel Service and Unimex for the airline. Recently it was revealed that ČSA had sustained a loss of nearly 1.32 billion crowns (72.2 million USD) in the first quarter of 2009 after experiencing an ‘unprecedented’ drop in the number of passengers, down 12 percent on the same period the previous year.
The Siemens factory in Zličín in Prague is definitively to close, it was announced on Thursday, creating nearly 1,000 redundancies. No investor could be found to take over the factory, which made trains for Prague’s metro and other rail operators, a company spokesperson said. On Thursday, Siemens announced that it was now only in negotiations with investors interested in the factory’s equipment and machinery. Union chiefs, however, said that it was ‘premature’ to talk about a definitive shut-down of the Siemens factory and that an investor still may be found. Siemens voiced its intention to pull out of Prague in July 2008.
The Czech Agrarian Chamber says that damages to crops and livestock caused by the recent floods will cost Czech farmers 200 million crowns (10.9 million USD). According to the association’s vice president, Jindřich Šnejdrla, around 40,000 hectares of Czech farmland have been damaged, while 500 hectares have been destroyed. Nearly 800 farm animals have died as a consequence of the floods, which struck predominantly North Moravia and South Bohemia late last week.
The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is to double the number of social service inspectors in the Czech Republic, Minister Petr Šimerka said on Thursday. The number of inspectors currently monitoring the standards of social services in the Czech Republic is ‘absolutely insufficient’ said Mr Šimerka, though he refused to say how many such inspectors were currently being employed. According to the minister, due to understaffing, it is practically impossible for social service inspectors to do their job properly at the moment. An amendment to the law on social services, which will come into effect on August 1, outsources more of the monitoring of social services to regional councils around the Czech Republic.
A man who was arrested on Wednesday in connection with three bank robberies in Prague has been charged by police on eight counts of such theft. The 34-year-old man is thought to have robbed eight banks over the past three months. Police said he could have stolen as much as 1 million crowns (54,200 USD) over this period. If found guilty, he could face up to 12 years in prison, Prague police spokesperson Tomáš Hulan said on Thursday. The man was arrested after failing to rob one bank in Prague 10 on Wednesday morning, and making away with tens of thousands of crowns from two other banks in Prague 3 later on.
Less than one half of Czechs trust the police, suggests a new poll conducted by the STEM agency and published on Thursday. According to STEM, the public’s attitude towards the police remains unchanged since the last such poll was conducted in 2004. The poll also suggested that only one third of Czechs have faith in the country’s judicial system, with only 28 percent of Czechs saying they believed that this country’s courts were doing a good job. A mere two percent of those questioned said that they believed Czech judges were working well and in a trustworthy manner.